Cycle Superhighways are implied as the cause of London’s buses going slower than a “horse and cart” according to a spate of newspaper reports triggered by a piece in The Times. The data to show this appears to come from an Inrix report that does indeed show congestion on London’s streets worsening and as a result of reduced capacity for motor vehicles. But… the report and Inrix’s Chief Economist has quite a different take on why this is happening.
Inrix’s own report – as the blog of their Chief Economist Graham Cookson points out – decides that the boom in construction is the key issue. On top of construction, the report highlights growth in van deliveries and HGVs, both up 8% in the last few years, but plays down the growing role of private hire vehicles. These are booming in numbers due to apps including Uber, but apparently are still only a small fraction of the overall traffic on central London’s streets. HGVs are, of course, often associated with construction.
The report says that the “duration of planned roadworks and road closures has increased by 362% since 2012”, with key impacts “significant building projects such as… London Victoria… Crossrail programme and… [the] Road Modernisation Plan.” The latter includes SCOOT sensors, Cycle Superhighways and redesign of key junctions. However Cookson says these latter, cycle-friendly schemes don’t impact on congestion negatively at all apart from during construction. In fact, they’re positive for congestion according to Cookson. He says the result is: “short term pain for long term gain”.
Taken together INRIX predicts that these improvements will “ultimately reduce congestion by 20%… whilst completing the projects will obviously stop the temporary congestion caused by their construction.” Included in that reduction calculation, INRIX suggests the schemes will reduce collisions: “A key aim of the improvements is to make London’s roads safer and to reduce road traffic accidents by 40%. This would also have a substantial impact on congestion as up to 30% of congestion is caused by accidents.”
TfL figures already show more people than ever able to move along the Embankment precisely because of the East-West Cycle Superhighway, while 70% of traffic moving over Blackfriars Bridge during rush hour are now people cycling.
Cycle Superhighways and Better Junctions then are safer, cut congestion after completion and are the solution, not the problem, to congestion. Glad that’s all cleared up then.